'Bachelorette' Star on Pressures of Lead Role: "I've Learned to Love My Flaws"

Hannah Brown tells The Hollywood Reporter she hopes to start a dialogue about anxiety issues with her turn on the ABC franchise.
ABC
Hannah Brown with contestant Peter on 'The Bachelorette'

As one contestant pointed out on Monday night's The Bachelorette, star Hannah Brown has already started off one of two weekly rose ceremonies in tears. And after that episode — week three in the 15th cycle of the ABC dating franchise — The Bachelorette cameras also notched a first when they took a trip to the hospital to follow their star after she fainted and needed to re-coup with IV treatment.  

As has been promised, Brown's season of The Bachelorette is not shying away from giving viewers a more authentic portrayal of what goes into leading a season of the long-running dating franchise. After being billed as a "dark horse" pick and the most "relatable" female star yet, Brown doubled down on those words from her ABC producers and told The Hollywood Reporter at the start of her season: "Everybody has moments of sadness and anxiety — and you’ll see me deal with sadness and anxiety — and also being excited and happy and over the moon. I have all emotions, and I’m not afraid to show those."

THR was on set during one of the group dates that aired on Monday night's episode. "She has that personality where you just know she’s 100 percent herself all of the time," contestant Peter (the pilot) said during the pet-friendly photo shoot, which was filmed in Hollywood in March. During the set visit, Brown was able to offer more insight into how she found her footing after a rocky debut and explain why the reality show experience helped her deal with her anxiety issues amid her pursuit of love. Read on for the full chat.

ABC reality boss Rob Mills said they picked you because you had something different than any other Bachelorette. In what ways do you feel you are breaking the mold?

That was really nice of him. I don’t really fit the mold. I don’t always react the same way to things that a normal Bachelorette would. I make mistakes and I own up to them, and I think that’s what makes me relatable to the audience. We’re not always looking 100 percent; we don't always have the perfect thing to say to every experience that we go through, and that’s what you’ll see. I’m not always going to say the right thing. I’m going to have an emotional journey, and you’ll see all of the different emotions, and I’m okay with that. I think I’ve learned to love my flaws and accept that that’s what makes me me.

Before filming on your season began, you were introduced on the live After the Final Rose Special. Many people in Bachelor Nation were nervous about you leading a season (including host Chris Harrison), but others reacted positively to your unrehearsed charm. What was going through your head in your debut?

That was totally unexpected. I’ve never done a rose ceremony before, and that really threw me off. I was not prepared to meet men that night, so I handled it just like I normally would — and that means it’s not going to be perfect. I made mistakes, I didn’t even know what to say to give the roses! (Laughs) I didn’t know exactly what was going on, but I just went with it, and you’ll probably see that a lot throughout the season. I don’t know what’s going on and I’m leading a flock of men, hopefully not into disaster!

What do you say to those people who said they were nervous about you being the lead of the Bachelorette? 

Since the After the Final Rose, I haven’t really had my phone or seen what people were saying about me. And honestly, if I let that get to me, I would never be in this position in the first place. Everybody is going to have their own opinions of how they think I’m going to handle things, but one thing I will say is I usually shock people and surprise people by how I react — good or bad — so they’ll definitely have to tune in to see if they’re right or wrong. But I know that I’m ready for it, and I’m going to be completely myself.

You used your Miss USA platform to advocate for depression and anxiety, two things you battled when you were younger. Do you still deal with those issues as an adult, and how do you plan to handle that as the Bachelorette?

Absolutely I do. There are times when I get super anxious and want to be able to control all of the things going on around me. But this journey has really allowed me to accept that I can’t control how people react to me, and I can't always control how I react. Doing this show has taught me how to handle that in a more positive way. I think it’s okay to just say, "Hey, I’m a little anxious, I’m a little sad." Because we all have moments where we feel that way, and The Bachelorette is a great platform for me to be candid about things that I’ve struggled with and to be able to combat them. I’m in such a better spot than I was even as a titleholder [then], where I can talk about what I’ve been through. I can talk about what I’ve been able to overcome and what I still struggle with, but also the techniques and how I surround myself with people to make sure I feel safe and secure and comforted. 

Where is the biggest learning curve when you go from being a contestant to being the lead? What takes the most getting used to?

I’ve never dated 30 men at one time, so it's just making sure that I am giving every single relationship a chance. I feel like I’ve done that really well. I’ve surprised myself with how comfortable I’ve been in this role and trying to use how comfortable I am, but also seeing the nerves in the guys and trying to figure out the best way to get them comfortable. Because really, the only way that I’m going to be able to have a relationship at the end of this is if we can both be completely ourselves with each other. That he can completely get to know me and I can completely get to know him. That’s just establishing a level of security and comfort, and that’s what I’ve been trying to do. It’s a struggle, but I think it’s really important as a lead to be able to help the men relax.

The Bachelorette airs Mondays at 8 p.m. on ABC.